How to choose your Project Management framework and course
Selecting the Optimal Project Management Framework
Summary of Topics
Project management has evolved for decades to provide optimized approaches to deal with the key need of managing transformation in organizations. Many project management frameworks or methodologies emerged to this aim. In some cases, it can be straightforward to choose one for a project, usually when the project management framework is already adopted by the organization, or it is mandate by a customer, partner or regulatory body. However, it is not always the case. In many cases there is still no adopted project management framework, and it becomes useful to select one. This short article will try to provide some guidelines to orient the choice of a suitable project management framework and course.
Why to adopt a reference project management framework?
The answer is straightforward, in this case. Some of the project management framework that we will cite in this article are used since many years and have proved to be effective at reducing the risk and losses or maximizing the opportunities related to business transformation. So why inventing something new or proceeding without leveraging one of these frameworks? Of course, there is no reason why not doing it.
However, which one to choose? By using the wrong approach or the right approach in the wrong way, many organizations have not improved their rate of success in projects. In some cases, they may have discovered to perform even worse.
First cornerstone, agile vs. traditional vs. hybrid
We will make it very simple, trying not to oversimplify. The first aspect that you should consider is which family of approach you need: agile vs. traditional vs. hybrid.
Project management has first evolved with the now so-called traditional methods or approaches. These start from requirements and try to define a predictable path (costs, time, quality) to implement them. Activities tend to be planned sequentially, or waterfall.
Organizations like to have a predictable budget, baseline, and roadmap and therefore they were initially fascinated by the promise of the “traditional” frameworks. However, in many cases, things went wrong, and projects failed. This generated frustration and some disillusion towards project management. This could depend on many factors, and it is not the aim of this article to discuss them all. Here, we will concentrate on those that triggered the birth of agile methods. The main reasons for many failures were:
- requirements were not clear and/or shared by the key stakeholders.
- changes to them and to the environment were too fast and were difficult to manage.
In response to this, Agile management approaches for transformation, also applicable to projects emerged. To continue simplification, the agile methods are generally based on the development of the outputs by means of several short iterations (sprints typically lasting one month), each implementing a piece of the requirements and used to receive frequent feedback from the customers and users of the results. Feedback is used to adapt the requirements and drive effort to achieve the best possible result.
We can say that while traditional methods fix costs, time, quality, and features (what to achieve), agile methods fix costs (the team and time spent in sprints is predefined and does not change), time (the duration of sprints is predefined) and quality (never compromised) but accept the variance of results: features are developed according to needs and to capacity. Agile methods have proven to help developing a suitable output. However, it can be slightly or greatly different from what was initially imagined.
Although Agile methods have proven to be very effective, they can’t be applied in all circumstances. This happens, for example, when the relationship with suppliers is governed by contractual agreements with defined deliverables, deadlines, and costs. In most cases the issue can be cultural… being agile not applying agile methods is the key for success but the cultural change very often does not occur.
Consequently, hybrid approaches emerged. They combine traditional and agile characteristics, trying to overcome the disadvantages of both. So, are hybrid agile the final solutions? Not always, as they tend to be more complex.
Finally, there is a significant difference when scaling. Managing projects is not the same as managing programs or portfolios of projects. In the same ways, there is a significant difference when trying to manage agility at initiative or team level versus at the entire organization level. Consequently, it is possible to find specialized frameworks to manage transformation at a scaled level.
Our dedicated article provides further information on how to choose between the traditional and agile project management.
Project management frameworks addressed at iLEARN
iLEARN addresses several project management frameworks, traditional, agile and hybrid, understanding that there is no single winner. For each, it proposes training courses provided with several methods (classroom on site, virtual, online) and the official related certifications. The consulting business unit, iCONS, also helps to put in practice their guidance for optimal results.
We will now provide detailed information for each of the following frameworks:
- ISO 21502
- PRINCE2 Agile
This will help to start understanding what to do in a specific context. More will be clear when learning the specific frameworks. iLEARN experts are available to discuss the ideal choice and path with you.
What is AgileLearn?
AgileLearn is not a framework but a guide to agility and existing frameworks in the context of business transformation. It explains what being agile really means and how to implement agility. It also illustrates the characteristic of the most popular agile frameworks. Two training paths are available for basic and scaled agility.
To whom is AgileLearn suited?
It is suited to all those who want to better understand what agility is and want to choose an agile framework or blend with other ones. It is an optimal starting point to activate agility. However, it can be useful also for those who have used a specific agile framework and feel the need to explore alternatives or evolutions.
Which are the AgileLearn certifications?
AgileLearn has currently two certifications: AgileLearn Master Certified and AgileLearn Scaled Master certified. The first is suited for the application of agility at local level, the second when the target is to scale it at the whole organization level.
For more information you can read our page about AgileLearn certifications.
Advantages of AgileLearn
Attention points of AgileLearn
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What is AgilePM?
Since its introduction in 2010, AgilePM has fast established itself as the world's leading framework and certification for agile project management, with over 200,000 exams sat worldwide. AgilePM is based on the DSDM Agile Project Management framework, a pragmatic and repeatable agile methodology for project management. Its key characteristic is that it adds a structured and more traditional governance layer to typical agile practices to conduct project activities.
To whom is AgilePM suited?
AgilePM is a balanced framework, useful for the organizations that need to run an agile project, for example because requirements are initially not well known, but need a governance framework (control of costs, time, quality, and features) as robust as in traditional approaches.
Which are the AgilePM certifications?
The AgilePM qualification scheme has two levels: foundation and practitioner. Foundation is suited for all, in particular resources who need to act in a project managed with the AgilePM. Practitioner is recommended for the key roles in the project or those in charge of AgilePM implementation.
For more information you can read our page about the AgilePM certification.
Advantages of AgilePM
Attention points of AgilePM
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What is ISO 21502?
ISO 21502 is the ISO standard for project management. The full name of the standard is: Project, program, and portfolio management — Guidance on project management. As the name suggests, it provides guidance on how to manage projects. ISO 21502 is a traditional focused framework based on project management practices (e.g., planning, scope management, resources management, schedule management, cost management, etc.), a process approach (e.g., initiating a project, controlling a project, managing start and close of phases, etc.) recalling PRINCE2 processes and project roles.
To whom is ISO 21502 suited?
ISO 21502 is recommended to individuals involved in the governance, direction, assurance, audit and management of projects, project managers and project team members. It is particularly relevant for organization with strong ISO based quality management systems. A negative aspect is that the detail of guidance is lower than other frameworks. An advantage is that it’s an open framework (not proprietary) and provides high level guidance that is applicable in conjunction with other project management frameworks too.
Which are the ISO 21502 certifications?
Currently, iLEARN proposes the Foundation certification level suited to all those that are involved in a project and managers, to provide a better understanding of project management and to help them to give appropriate support and guidance to project managers.
For more information read our page about the ISO 21502 certification.
Advantages of ISO 21502
Attention points of ISO 21502
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What is Kanban?
Kanban is a popular Lean workflow management method for defining, managing, and improving processes. It helps you visualize work, maximize efficiency, and improve continuously. As you may understand, it is not really a project management framework. However, you may find it classified as an agile one in some cases. It is true that Kanban may help to coordinate project tasks, by assigning, showing, and controlling them in Kanban boards. To this aim, it is frequently used in agile management frameworks, to coordinate and make transparent what is happening in a sprint. However, the key use of Kanban is to support the execution of improvement of processes.
To whom is Kanban suited?
Kanban is used in many agile frameworks, for example Scrum, and therefore its knowledge is recommended to those adopting them. It is also useful for those who are responsible to manage very simple process, where the main need is task coordination and governance is straightforward.
Which are the Kanban certifications?
iLEARN proposes the Kanban Master Certified level, suited to all those that are interested or need to use the Kanban method, either to manage processes or projects.
For more information read our page about Kanban certifications.
Advantages of Kanban
Attention points of Kanban
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What is PM2?
PM2 is one of the most recent new entries among project management frameworks. It is a traditional one and, its peculiar aspect is that it is sponsored by the European Commission. While the methodology is suitable to any type of project, it is ideal for projects related to the public sector, EU programs and grants. PM² incorporates elements from globally accepted best-practices. It has a process and practices approach similar to PRINCE2 but more compact, less “bureaucratic” and complete of techniques.
To whom is PM2 suited?
PM2 is used by EU agencies and it’s becoming relevant for organizations or individuals working in a EU program context. However, it is based on universal and proven practices, compact but complete and therefore a good candidate as the primary project management methodology within organizations.
Which are the PM2 certifications?
iLEARN proposes the APMG PM2 foundation Certified level certification, consistent with the EU requirements. It is aimed at project managers, and anyone involved in a project, especially if in the context of EU institutions or programs.
For more information read our page about the PM² certification.
Advantages of PM2
Attention points of PM2
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What is PRINCE2?
PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments) is the traditional project management methodology counting the highest number of certified individuals. It is a must for those working in Information Technology and very popular in UK and other European countries. It is around since decades, and it is now at its 7th edition. It provides a complete yet adaptable approach to manage projects based on principles, practices, and processes. Note that PRINCE2 does not provide details on project management techniques (e.g., Gantt management).
To whom is PRINCE2 suited?
The knowledge of PRINCE2 is a must for individuals working in projects with the public administration in UK. However, it is one of the most popular traditional project management frameworks. As such, it is recommended to anyone working in a project managed with PRINCE2 methodology or interested to introduce PRINCE2.
Which are the PRINCE2 certifications?
The PRINCE2 qualification scheme has two levels: foundation and practitioner. Foundation is suited for all, resources who need to act in a project managed based on PRINCE2. Practitioner is recommended for the key roles in the project or those in charge of PRINCE2 implementation.
For more information read our page about the PRINCE2 certification.
Advantages of PRINCE2
Attention points of PRINCE2
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What is PRINCE2 Agile?
Organization using PRINCE2 found themselves more and more challenged by agile approaches to manage projects. As explained in the introduction, there is no definitive answer to what is better. The evidence is that in some cases traditional and agile shall live together. PRINCE2 Agile comes to answer this need. It mainly provides guidance to organizations and individuals that are using PRINCE2 but needs to blend agility into it.
To whom is PRINCE2 Agile suited?
The knowledge of PRINCE2 Agile is a must for individuals and organizations working that adopted PRINCE2 and needs to integrate or work with who is using agile methods, such as Scrum.
Which are the PRINCE2 Agile certifications?
The PRINCE2 Agile qualification scheme has two levels: foundation and practitioner. Foundation is suited for all. Practitioner is recommended for the key roles in the project or those in charge of PRINCE2 Agile implementation.
For more information read our page about the PRINCE2 Agile certification.
Advantages of PRINCE2 Agile
Attention points of PRINCE2 Agile
What is PMBoK?
The PMBoK or Project Management Body of Knowledge, is the most comprehensive body of knowledge on traditional project management. Issued and maintained by the Project Management Institute, its certifications are probably the most known for project management. As the name suggests, it is more a detailed and complete body of knowledge than a specific methodology. In other words, it does not provide the precise steps on what to do to manage a project, but it provides detailed contents on all that could be done, including techniques. It is very popular in business context and in US.
To whom is PMBoK suited?
PMBoK is recommended to project managers or aspiring project managers, for a detailed knowledge of project management practices and techniques.
Which are the PMBoK certifications?
The two certifications related to PMBoK are CAPM and PMP. They substantially cover the same knowledge and differ for requirements and content of the certification examination. The key distinction is the experience in project management required.
For more information read our page about PMI certifications based on the PMBoK.
Advantages of PMBoK
Attention points of PMBoK
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What is Scrum?
Scrum it the most popular and adopted agile framework. Originally designed to support the collaborative design and implementation of innovative products or services (e.g., software), it has been successfully used also to manage projects. Scrum is simple but difficult to master. It’s guidance is easy to understand but it requires a change of culture when used to traditional waterfall approaches. The basic Scrum is designed to be used by small teams. When more teams need to work on the same product or project, it is no longer sufficient and bust be scaled or “wrapped” by other frameworks (AgilePM or PRINCE2 Agile, cited before, are doing so).
To whom is Scrum suited?
Scrum is a must for anyone who is interested in adopting or working with an agile framework to manage projects or the development of products and services. It is also a key body of knowledge for most scaled agile frameworks or for hybrid approaches.
Which are the Scrum certifications?
iLEARN proposes certifications according to the key roles recommended by Scrum: Scrum Master Certified, Scrum Product Owner Certified and Scrum Developer Certified. Individuals should select the suited one based on the role they will play in a Scrum team.
For more information read our page about Scrum certifications.
Advantages of Scrum
Attention points of Scrum
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Other related frameworks and certifications
There are frameworks and/or certifications related to the ones we discussed so far. For example, when scaling the level of business transformation, using PRINCE2 may be insufficient. MSP (Managing Successful Programmes), MoP (Management of Portfolios), P3O (Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices) and their related certifications were designed to respond to this issue and particularly the combined use with PRINCE2. You can find more information on these frameworks at these links:
The same did PMI for PMBoK, developing the PgMP certification, focused on programme management.
PMI also recognized the relevance of agile in project management and responded developing PMI-ACP certification.
Conclusion and guidance to choose
There is no universal possible guide to select the optimal framework. This depends on the specific context. Some key influencing factors are the size of the project, the level of definition and stability of requirements, the use of project management frameworks, the culture of the organization (e.g., the level of control needed). We will now try to provide a step-by-step approach. Use with care and contact us for any doubts.
The first diagram is for individuals who are choosing a project management certification to enhance their career.
The second diagram is for individuals who shall support an organization, either by working on projects or helping the organization to select a project management framework.
We hope that the above diagrams are a valuable help for you to choose. However, they cannot be exact algorithms. Remember that many here ignored or under valuated factors may play a role in the choice.